This paper explores the transformation of customary tenure systems and their impact on women's rights to land in Africa. Emphasis is placed on the diversity of land rights within customary tenure systems, the different institutions and structures (e.g., inheritance, marriage) that influence rights to land, and the trend toward uniformity and increasing patrilineal control.
This article begins by establishing women’s land and property rights within international human rights law. The author then moves to examine current systems of land tenure in Africa and the extent to which women are able to access their property rights. The article notes the discrepancy between women's responsibility for ensuring the family’s food supply and the general lack of recognition of women’s rights in land.
Economists such as Hernando De Soto have argued that clearly defined property rights are essential to capital formation and ultimately to economic growth and poverty alleviation. This article traces two impediments to the clear definition of property rights in the African context: customary law and the status of women. Both of these issues interfere with the attempt of African countries to rearticulate property law with the goal of capital formation.
This article focuses on land reform initiatives undertaken in sub-Saharan African countries since the late 1980s. Section 1 sheds light on the changes in land tenure during the economic liberalization of the region. Section 2 briefly examines the gender-blind "mainstream" theoretical debates on land, and gender-sensitive studies on land issues. Section 3 offers insights on land issues in Africa from a gender perspective.
Land is a vital resource for rural livelihoods. Establishing and clarifying land rights through formalisation has become a key issue in development policies that aim to promote more productive uses of land. This report looks at some land reform initiatives from a gendered human rights perspective. The human rights-based approach (HRBA) has a direct bearing on international and national land reform policies, facilitating gender equality through elimination of discrimination against women. The overall aim of this report is to make a contribution to the operationalisation of the HRBA.
As mentioned in the introduction of the paper, “a primary focus of this paper will be an examination of how women’s rights to land are changing and evolving. However, descriptions of the nature of women's rights – how they are obtained, whether they are secure or insecure, exclusive or inclusive – do not give a full picture of how women are exercising their rights. For example, women may gain rights through marriage, but if few women are marrying, then these rights are meaningless.
As stated in the Abstract, “increasing commercialization, population growth and concurrent increases in land value have affected women's land rights in Africa. Most of the literature concentrates on how these changes have led to an erosion of women's rights. This paper examines some of the processes by which women's rights to land are diminishing. First, we examine cases where rights previously utilized have become less important; that is, the incidence of exercising rights has decreased.
As stated in the Abstract, “because food insecurity is primarily a problem of low household incomes and poverty, and not just inadequate food production, projects and programs for food insecure African farmers which aim at increasing production of subsistence crops may be ineffective. Instead, government should look for ways to improve returns to farmers' resources in a broader context, which may include expanded opportunities for non-farm microenterprises and agricultural labor. This has been the conventional wisdom since the writings of Amartya Sen.
This article looks at land tenure systems as well as changes in traditional marriage institutions and social security in Senegal and Burkina Faso and argues that it is crucial that women’s social security and bargaining power within the traditional institutions be preserved while introducing new institutional arrangements for land tenure.